Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, June 28, 2002
Will China and US Follow the Tracks of Soviet-US Cold War?
Seeing the rise of China in recent years, some people in the United States and other countries advertised the "theory of China threat", holding that China, following the former Soviet Union, would become the main enemy of the United States and a new Cold war and even a hot war would break out between the United States and China. Then let's make a comparison between the then Soviet-US relationship and today's Sino-US relationship, will China really become another Soviet Union?
The nearly 50-year period from the end of World War II to the disintegration of the former Soviet Union was the so-called Cold-War period. During this period, the world situation was characterized by the all-round confrontation between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, a nuclear war had reached the extent where "the bow was drawn but the arrow was not discharged", the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union overwhelmed other international relations and put them in a subordinate position. This phase of just past history stamped deep brands in people's minds and psychology.
Seeing the rise of China in recent years, some people in the United States and other countries advertised the "theory of China threat", holding that China, following the former Soviet Union, would become the main enemy of the United States and a new Cold war and even a hot war would break out between the United States and China. Then let's make a comparison between the then Soviet-US relationship and today's Sino-US relationship, will China really become another Soviet Union? The answer is negative.
China Does not have Super-powerful Military Strength
In those years, both the United States and the Soviet Union were superpowers and both had military and overall national strength which was greater than the combined strengths of other large countries.
The nuclear arsenals of the two countries were approximately equal, and both had the capability to destroy the other side many times, the conventional military strength of the Soviet Union was even more mighty. US economic and scientific and technological strength was superior to that of the Soviet Union, but the gap between the two at that time was not very wide, the Soviet Union was the opponent on a par with the United States. Therefore, in the Cold War, both sides had offensive and defensive, before the Soviet Union was finally disintegrated, it was hard to tell who would win and who would lose.
Today, the United States is the sole superpower, its GDP represents over one-fourth of the world's total, its military spending is greater than the combined total of the eight military powers placed behind it, its military might is great enough to cover the whole globe, it also possesses enormous soft strength. There has never been any other country possessing so great superiority like it since the dawn of history.
China of today is still a developing country, with its GDP accounting for only one-ninth of that of the United States, and its nuclear weapons for only the odd of that of the United States. The balance of strength between the two sides is asymmetric, that is to say, the strength of today's China is just enough for self-defense. China has very great potential, but to develop in every aspect to the extent that can be mentioned in the same breath with the United States perhaps still needs 30-50 years even if everything goes smoothly.
China Does Not Have the Ambition to Seek Hegemony
Both the United States and the Soviet Union had the ambition to play the hegemonic overlord. What they were scrambling for was world domination, that is, to exercise the right to control over others.
They had carved out spheres of influence in Europe since the Yalta Agreement in 1945, they had their respective military alliances, carried out massive activities to guarantee each other's destructive nuclear deterrent strategy and tried to regulate long-term, unceasing arms race through arms control negotiations. At the same time, they stirred up one crisis and local war after another in various parts of the world outside of their own territories, striving to expand their own domains. Their struggles had never ceased.
China is different from them. As a developing country which had not long rid itself of foreign aggression and control. The main purpose of China's foreign policy has always been defense of its own independence and striving for a peaceful international environment to carry out economic and social development and improve the living standards of the entire Chinese people.
China advocates the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, nonalignment, not serving as head and refraining from forming blocs. China does not have a single soldier overseas, nor a sphere of influence. China opposes hegemonism, particularly American acts of infringing on China's sovereign interests, but China does not seek hegemony and it has not the least intention to contend for hegemony with the United States.
There Are Widespread Exchange and Cooperation Between China and the US
The two major camps of the United States and the Soviet Union not only were opposed to each other politically and militarily, they also divided into two isolated markets economically, their economic systems were totally different, and they had very few non-governmental exchanges.
Today, Sino-US relationship is quite different. After China introduced the reform and opening up policy, particularly after it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), the country has successfully changed its planned economic system, established a socialist market economy and actively participated in the international trading system. There are lots of mutually beneficial exchanges between China and the United States and a situation in which "there is something of each in the other" has been formed to some extent.
Now the number of American tourists traveling to China each year has exceeded 800,000. Altogether180,000 students and visiting scholars from the Chinese mainland have studied or worked in the United States and over 60,000 Chinese students are continuing their studies there; the trade volume between the two countries reached US$80.4 billion in 2001, actual US investment in China has totaled US$34.5 billion, and these figures are still on the rise, more and greater mutually beneficial cooperation is in the ascendant.
China Does Not Differentiate Between Friend and Foe According to Ideology
Both the United States and the Soviet Union insist that their own concepts of value, social modes and lifestyles are the only ones universally applicable to the whole world, while those of the other side are evil and reactionary.
Perhaps this attitude is related to the history and religious traditions of the two countries. Puritans who founded the United States believe in the manifest destiny, holding that they themselves are the God's "voters" and saving the world is the sacred mission entrusted to them by the God; Russia's Orthodoxy maintained that Moscow was the "third Rome" following the ancient Rome and Byzantine.
Therefore they both spared no efforts to disseminate and spread their own concepts of value and social modes, and even unhesitatingly imposed them on others. Well-wished people maintain that reshaping others' society in accordance with their own images means practicing benefactions and doing others a favor; while ill-intentioned people seek occupying things of others, publicize themselves and control others. Whether they are well wished or ill intentioned, they lack respect for others' society.
China adheres to socialism and has contradiction with the United States in ideology, but this kind of contradiction is somewhat relaxed than the US-Soviet contradiction. China has a long history and has seen much of changes in human life, ordinary Chinese lay stress on reality, pay attention to the middle course, and have a faint religious concept about monotheism and they do not have the tradition of doing missionary work abroad.
Today China is adopting a fairly open attitude toward ideology, and advocates seeking truth from fact and emancipating the mind. It adopts an attitude of compatibility toward either China's own fine tradition or advanced foreign cultures. In international relations, China does not marking out in accordance with ideology, it recognizes the diversity of the cultures of various countries, it stands for dialogs between different civilizations and learning from each other.
The Chinese people's achievement of this has not come about easily, it is because the many sufferings they experienced over a period of nearly 200 years have compelled them to adapt to and influence the outside world by selectively changing hemselves, they have traversed a course of exploring between blind conceit and passive inferiority, learning from the strong points of foreign cultures to make up for China's deficiencies on the basis of mutual respect and seeking common grounds while reserving differences.
In addition, the sources of Chinese and the US cultures are different. When reflected in diplomacy, the interaction of China-US relationship is more sensitive and complicated, eliminating misunderstanding and reducing trouble will become a long-term arduous task that will appear over and again.
China Does Not Have the Nature of Expansion
Both the United States and the Soviet Union had a strong expansionist tradition. Over a short span of several hundred years, the small Moscow grand duchy had expanded several hundred times to become the Soviet Union, while the United States with only 13 states located out of the way on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean had expanded within even a shorter time deep into the Pacific Ocean to become today's United States consisting of 50 states.
In the process of expansion, they both resorted to unbridled use of war means to plunder other countries of their territories. After they ceased territorial expansion, they still continually expanded their spheres of influence. An American statesman once said that expansion was the life of Russia, once it ceased expansion, Russia's subsistence would face crisis. In fact, US own records show it was so busy expanding that it had no time to make concession. Therefore crashes between the two were unavoidable.
China does not have the nature of expansion. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in particular, we have been pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace, good neighborliness and friendship, although we have fought several wars of resistance against aggression to protect our homes and defend our motherland and counterattack for self-defense, we suffered not a single defeat, but even we had won big victories we invariably pulled our troops back to our own territory and even withdrew from the disputed areas which we had occupied, this is rare in the history of international relations, ordinary Chinese people consciously accepted this policy decision of the government.
US Attitude: Key to Determining Sino-US Relations
The key to China-US relations is the Taiwan issue. The nature of this question is US intervention in China's internal affairs and encroachment upon China's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Similar issue did not arise between the United States and the Soviet Union. For some US right-wingers, maintaining the situation of no war, no peace, no reunification and no independence between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits could possibly be a magic weapon for containing the rise of China. This is a potential explosive issue, the longer it is delayed, the more it is unfavorable to Sino-US relationship.
The nature of Sino-US contradiction is quite different from the US-Soviet contradiction. Currently China does not constitute threat to the United States, and it has no intention to contend for hegemony with the United States.
After China is fully developed in the future, there is great possibility for China to continue peaceful coexistence, friendship and cooperation with the United States, while the possibility is very small for a life-and-death struggle with the United States. This distinguishing feature of China has reduced the possibility of a China-US conflict, but this does not mean Sino-US relationship is bound to be a plain sailing.
Facts since the birth of New China show US attitude is the main aspect determining whether China-US relationship is good or bad. When the United States adopts an offensive posture and alternately or simultaneously uses the two tactics of contact and containment, it has an object in its mind of changing China in accordance with the US requirement.
China is in a defensive position, it also reacts by taking two policies, it strives both to establish a constructive and cooperative relationship with the United States, and resolutely opposes any US power means. China has never taken the initiative to provoke the United States, nor does it want to change the United States in accordance with China's requirement.
Considering the backgrounds of the growth of China's strength as well as scientific and technical progress, globalization and the rapid development of threat to non-traditional security, we can say that today's China-US relationship will not evolve into the long-term, all-round confrontation during the US-Soviet Cold War. Bilateral cooperation in the aspect of common interest will continue to develop, but contradictions and struggles in many fields will also exist for a long period of time.
As to partial confrontation, for instance, the Taiwan issue and some problems in the ideological field, they have never been ceased for many years, but facts have proved that so long as both sides properly handle such problems, and refrain from overdoing things, such local confrontation can be brought under control and will not expand to become all-round confrontation.
Before Nixon's China visit, China and the United States had experienced all-round confrontation for more than two decades. Confrontation, needless to say, means a heavy burden on China, it is not a light and easy thing to the United States either.
In October 1967, in his article published in the periodical, "Diplomacy", Nixon said: From the long-term point of view, we can't afford to bear the burden of eternally keeping China outside the big family of various countries��.In this small celestial body, the 1 billion talented and capable people cannot be allowed to live in a state of wrath and isolation. The strong anti-China force in the American society incessantly advocated coping with China as they did with the former Soviet Union. Some of them did so out of political or ideological prejudice, some out of the intention of guaranteeing the United States' absolute, ever-lasting superiority, some out of the consideration of the interest of war industry or other economic benefits, they need to create an enemy, so as to deceive the masses and divert people's line of sight.
China has a vast expanse of land, a large population and rapid development, and it is a socialist country, so it is just right to be taken as their target, it is described as a threat even though it is not a threat.
However, these people are in the minority in the United States, most Americans disagree to this viewpoint. Several American presidents have openly stated that a powerful and prosperous China is in the interests of the United States and that the United States hopes to establish stable, good relationship with China.
These words have been repeated over and again. In the United States, debate on US policy toward China will continue for a long time to come and there will still be twists and turns, but it should be believed that the interests of most people will ultimately take the upper hand, we hold a prudent and optimistic view about the prospect of Sino-US relationship.
The above commentary was published on page 4 of Global Times, June 20